Wednesday, July 8, 2009

My First Quilt

Camille & Carrie are starting this thread about our very first quilts and the last one completed. Quilters' Newsletter Magazine has this topic as a regular feature in their magazine though they usually ask famous designers & quilters--and since i will never grace their pages as such--i can post it on my own blog :-)

feel free to not read this long-winded post and just look at the pictures--i wanted to write it down my crafty history for my own posterity's sake.
growing up in Hong Kong, both my parents worked, and not to say i was neglected or uncared for--quite the contrary--but there wasn't much time for my parents to nurture or encourage any creativity. ironically, my parents are both rather good with their hands. my mom knits and sews--she's very practical and mostly makes clothes and whatever is useful. she gets a little too practical and sometimes her workmanship is a little shoddy (don't worry--she'll never read this :-) but if you need anything made of fabric in a jiffy--she can do it. i've started her quilting in the last few years but like i said, she's practical, so she still thinks it's a little odd to cut up perfectly good fabric to make basically, another piece of fabric. my dad works with plants and rocks and that kind of stuff--he likes to create little bonsai scenes, or landscapes in his aquariums, stuff like that--very old-school Chinese.

so even when i had the craving to do craftiness growing up, i didn't have the opportunity. my aunt taught me to knit & crochet but HK is hot and i didn't like handling all that wool (probably acrylic). i had a hippie cousin who was in HK briefly (after a stint in the Peace Corps in Fiji Islands) (very hippie-ish) who taught me macrame but i didn't remember it after she left.

it wasn't until college that i started doing anything crafty. my sister was into cross-stitch at the time and i did a little--but there wasn't too much time to do needlework in-between all that studying and partying (just to say--my "partying" was the very tame, Christian kind :-)

i stayed at the same college for graduate school (library sciences) and that's when i finally had the time and a little money to start getting into crafts. i did some stencilling (very badly--i didn't know any of the techniques) and painting on wood, and dried flowers (when a friend came over, she had an allergy attack with all the dried flowers--and dust--in my apartment :-) --lots of hot glue was used. it was exploring a whole new world for me!

back then (almost 20 years ago), our local crafts chain store was called Leewards and i think they were later bought out by Michael's. there weren't any stores near my house so anytime i was near one--out in the suburbs--i would just go crazy and buy all sorts of crap. by now, i had started working and had actual money for the first time in my life. i think i spent most of it on craft supplies!!

(the pink ice cream is probably the only fabric i would buy again today)

and then, i found Quilting. i went to a crafts expo with LHB (i made the Roman Peace quilt for her wedding this year) and bought a bunch of crap (i remember i got a baking dish in the shape of a heart--so NOT my style now; a blue and white woven throw with cows and farm animals on it--finally gave it to goodwill last year; and a embossing stationary set--used it once--still have it--maybe one day... :-) AND the pattern for this quilt. i mainly bought it 'cos another friend VLJ was really into ice-cream and i had some idea of making the quilt as a present for her. (i kept this one, but eventually made another ice-cream quilt for her 1st baby, and the 2nd design in the pattern of ice cream sundaes for her 2nd baby).

i bought all the fabrics at Joann's (it was probably still called New York Fabrics then) near Serramonte Mall. i had the pattern and was slavishly copying the fabrics in the photo--i remember being thrilled with the striped sashing fabric because it was so close to the one in the photo. i think i even placed all the colors in the same location! (shoot--i wonder where the original pattern is--it'd be interesting to see how close i got to the picture.)

(yikes--the sides really do bow out that far!)


i fell in love with the whole process. buying the fabrics, cutting them out (no rotary cutters--just templates and tracing) , piecing them all together, etc. etc. i had forgotten, but i actually hand-quilted this! (see the huge stitches above) i think because i had didn't know how to machine-quilt it. and i'm pretty sure it was a polyester batting inside. i used my mom's old sewing machine. she was back in HK at this time so i remembered having to borrow a book from the library just to figure out how to thread the machine. it was an old cabinet machine, not a Singer, that she got at a garage sale years ago. we still have it but i don't think it works anymore.

VLJ bought a cheapie sewing machine too & started sewing--dolls, simple clothes, etc. and i followed suit on my mom's. i remember sewing a stuffed cow from a panel, making a pair of shorts (i still have some fabric from it), little stuff like that. oh, and a half-finished dress (horrible!) was started around that time. but quilting was it for me. it felt like coming home.

what did i learn from quilting while making this first quilt? my biggest lesson was that i don't like solids. in the 100s of quilts i've made since then, only 1 or 2 have used solid fabric since. a lot of quilters i see out in blogland are using plain whites for sashing--and i guess with lots of quilting, that would look good, but i still prefer tone-on-tone whites or creams as my background. i just think that looks better--but obviously that's totally subjective. and i also learned to never use polyester batting--i just don't like the way it feels.

(Lakehouse Baskets. 2008-2009)

so all this quiltiness started around 18 years ago. wow--i'm old. and this is one of my latest quilts--not a single plain fabric in sight :-) like many of you, i have a long list of WIPs so i can't say this is my last quilt but it was finished this year. it's quite appropriate though, 'cos the colors are still bright and are actually a little reminiscent of my ice cream quilt. i don't only make bright quilts--my color tastes run the gamut--but i still have a fondness for pure bright colors.

(pattern by Tracey Brookshier; Quick Quilts From Your Scrap Basket) (i'll post a full blog just about this quilt later--i really like it :-)

i'm still not a good craftsperson (don't look at my points, or lack thereof) and i still love color--i just embrace all colors now. and i've given up all my other craftiness. it's like i've decided to major in quilting and i don't have the time nor interest in anything else. i still have a box of cross-stitching stuff out in the garage and i've made one redwork quilt but i've decided that i like hand-piecing more than embroidery.

a lot of my friends don't have any sort of passionate hobbies. of course they go out more often and visit interesting places, are able to save money 'cos they don't buy endless amounts of fabric, and are healthier 'cos they actually go out and exercise :-) but still, i wouldn't trade my love of quilting for anything. it's part of me. it's coming home.


  1. First quilt is sweet.... but .....
    Latest quilt is STUNNING!!!
    Andi :-)

  2. Thanks for the journey. I enjoyed the ride...from beginning to end. And indeed...quilting is like coming home.

  3. your first quilt is cute, your last one is amazing! I'm with you on the color. I like bright and funky!

  4. Your first is cute. You have "come a long way baby". I'm not usually that crazy about basket blocks but I LOVE THIS one. I wish I could click on it and see a close up. It's fun to have a record of how you got there and hear how your passion grew.

  5. 18 years!! what an impressive history! i know what you mean about solids... but i love your color variety in the basket quilt!! adorable!

  6. Sounds like quite a journey. Beautiful quilts (especially that last one) and use of color. Thanks for joining in!

  7. Lovely quilts! Sorry for hijacking your comments section but I didn't see an e-mail link. Just wanted to let you know that you had won something in my giveaway. Please send snail mail!

    Linda Lum DeBono

  8. your baskets quilt is so pretty...i love how the bright colors make it looks so modern and fun

  9. Love, love, love, the basket quilt. It is one of my favorite patterns and the bright colors are great!